It’s been a long time since, even if it’s just for one night, we’ve enjoyed a baseball game played by the Pittsburgh Pirates as much as we did last night. The Pirates 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals had it all. The intrigue, the unexpected and a dominating pitching performance.
Former Yankees pitchers have had a way of making an impact for the Pirates recently. Jeff Karstens, Daniel McCutchen, hell even Ross Ohlendorf did solid work for the Bucs. But this is so much bigger. A.J. Burnett looks to be the stir that stirs the drink as the ballclub trys to erase a losing streak that has reached ridiculous proportions. He walks with swagger. A veteran for a young pitching staff to admire and emulate.
Well guess what?
It didn’t start in spectacular fashion for Burnett. A four-pitch walk to lead off the game isn’t what anyone envisions for a pitcher making their debut in front of a hometown crowd. While thousands of damp, die hard fans watched, Burnett struggled to control his fastball.
Burnett fired his fifth pitch for a strike eliciting a Bronx cheer from the Pittsburgh faithful who braved the rainy weather to see just what the 35-year old had left in the tank. His sixth pitch was ripped into left field for a single setting up first and second for the Redbirds.
Burnett fell behind, three balls and one strike, and he failed to battle back. The seasoned righty with 13-years of experience walked the bases loaded. In the dreams of Pirates fans…it wasn’t supposed to start like this.
Burnett took a deep breath along with thousands of Bucco fans. Bases drunk….no outs… the red hot Carlos Beltran was walking toward the plate. Around this time, we have to guess that Burnett had a conversation with himself. As Burnett exhaled, he saw his cold breath blow in front of his face and Beltran stepped into the box.
He started the veteran who has hit nine career grand slams off with a strike. We didn’t realize it at the time, but Burnett had settled down. A few pitches later Beltran was making his way back to the Cardinals dugout after being Burnett’s first strikeout victim as a Pirate.
Matt Holliday would follow as the second victim.
Now with two outs and the bases still juiced, a line drive off the bat of Yadier Molina was speared by Clint Barmes. Inning over.
Pirates fans immediately went for another beer, or their elixir of choice. What a roller coaster ride of a debut inning for A.J., but when he returned to the mound in the second inning, he pulled the brake on the coaster. The right-hander owned the Cards the rest of the way.
Just like all of us envisioned. Just like everyone will be talking about at work on Monday.
It’s been a really long time since we enjoyed a baseball game this much. Burnett retired seventeen Cardinals batters on three pitches or less. Damn.
Welcome to Pittsburgh A.J. Burnett and heh New York, keep sending those arms our way, we appreciate it.